When writing The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, I find myself intrigued by the same question: what’s in a name?
Names define us. We build our identities around them. I remember being in sixth grade, starting at a new school. My family always called me Tess or Tessie because I was young, but once I hit the grand age of 11 years old, I no longer wanted to be called “Tessie.” No, I wanted to be Theresa. It was a more serious, adult-sounding name and I guess I was ready to start growing up…a bit.
It makes me wonder–if we change a name, can we change a person?
We see this sometimes in titles. When a boyfriend becomes a husband, or a girlfriend becomes a wife, or man and woman become father and mother, our roles change, our identities change, our responsibilities change. There is power in a name. Why? Because titles and names carry meanings; they define who we are, what stage of life we have entered, what our connection might be to another person.
The Sixth Race in The Cat’s Eye Chronicles has become quite an interesting study for me. By default, their race is called the Unnamed, and they are raised communally, without individual identity. And yet within the large pool of Unnamed, there is a much smaller pool of the Named, and an even smaller pool of the Grandmasters. In some cases, an assassin’s Name can change twice or three-times over the course of his or her life. Which begs the question–how much of a name can hold one’s identity? What if we were all born without names? How would that effect our sense of individuality? What would we do to have a name? How much would we covet it?
In Crash’s story, the various stages of his names run parallel to the stages of his life. In the Hive, he was simply savant, an unnamed child. Once becoming the Viper, he takes on the role of Viper, killing with deadly, ruthless efficiency. When he leaves the Hive, in many ways, he leaves behind his Name and his identity. He strips himself of everything he has ever known, so that one day, he might become something new.
When Viper is finally nicknamed Crash, he enters a new stage in his life. One of friendship and purpose. For the first time, he carries a name without prestige, without some inherent, deeper meaning. The name “Crash” is a special link he shares with Sora. She is one of the first to call him that, and the first to truly see him as a man and not just a trained killer of the Sixth Race. She may know him as Crash, but she knows nothing of the Viper, and this is where Crash becomes conflicted. He doesn’t see the person she sees. He hasn’t quite defined his new identity yet. He hasn’t come to terms with his new name.
As I write his scenes, I often wonder–who is Crash, and who is Viper? Because they are really two different people. When I choose to use the name Viper in the text, I do so with purpose. I am trying to communicate something to the reader. We are no longer contending with the Crash we know. No, we are now looking at the darkness beneath his skin. The place where he comes from. The killer, the warrior, the lethal assassin. Viper is cold and efficient. He works without emotion. He is purpose-driven, highly analytical and cut-throat. In Viper’s world, there is no sentiment, and the demon he carries inside is not his enemy–but his ally.
Crash, in comparison, is still in embryonic form. What are his values? What does he live for? How does he define the world? He doesn’t know yet. And this is where his conflict arises. He wants to be what Sora is, but she cannot be the backbone of his identity. No, he must find that for himself, and he is still searching.
In Ferran’s Map, Crash is going to come into direct contact with his past. He will face his history. As we navigate these waters, I think eventually, the Viper is going to have to die. Not a literal death. But a death of self. Crash cannot know who he is until Viper steps out of the way.
This, my friends, is going to be an interesting study indeed….